Families flee house fire

SI Advance - December 26, 2004

by HEIDI J. SHRAGER

A fire broke out in a fourth-floor apartment in New Brighton yesterday where a mother and daughter lived, sending a tower of smoke into the sky and chasing about 15 tenants to the roof in a panic.

Both mother and daughter escaped uninjured. Twelve Fire Department units with more than 60 firefighters arrived at 61 Jersey St. and contained the fire within 45 minutes, before it spread beyond the apartment.

Once in the apartment, they axed through the windows and tossed charred objects to the ground one by one, including a mattress, a chair and a pot.

A firefighter said somehow the mother and daughter, whose names were not released, were separated after the fire broke. The mother ran to the roof of the 8-story brick building while the daughter, who looked to be in her early teens, made her way outside.

Fire officials said the cause was under investigation. But the woman who lives next door, Karesha Jordan, said a burning candle tipped over onto the daughter's bed.

Mrs. Jordan had been cooking a Christmas roast beef dinner for her family and relatives when her husband smelled smoke at about 3:30 p.m. and opened the door to a thick veil of blackness. They heard the daughter screaming and took her in.

Dressed in yellow Garfield slippers and snowman pajama bottoms, the daughter was crying and panicking for her mother and her two cats, recalled Mrs. Jordan.

Once outside, the daughter was visibly hysterical as she awaited news of her mother and cats.

Within a half an hour, firefighters wheeled her mother, barefoot and holding an oxygen mask to her face, out the front entrance, and took her to St. Vincent's Hospital, West Brighton, to check for smoke inhalation, said a fire official.

The cats weren't so lucky. Moments later, a firefighter emerged carrying a blue-flowered sheet with a ball of dead weight inside of it.